Brazilian prison gang, the PCC, has laundered an estimated $15 million of drug money through accounts opened by relatives of jailed members, demonstrating the growing sophistication of the gang’s criminal tactics.
According to the São Paulo police, the scheme worked by bribing
visitors of detainees to allow the deposit and transfer PCC money
through their bank accounts. These visitors, mostly wives and
girlfriends of newer gang members, were offered assistance with
transport, rent and medical expenses in exchange for their
In this way, the PCC is believed to have laundered at least $280,000 per month from drug trafficking since 2013.
Among those arrested in the raids was a criminal known as “Motoboy,”
believed to be responsible for administering the scheme. Motoboy
coordinated with PCC cells inside the state’s prisons to enlist the
visitors, and then coordinated the withdrawal of the money channeled
through their accounts.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although the PCC has long maintained a large-scale drug trafficking
network, the sums laundered through this system provide fresh evidence
of the sheer scale of these operations and the elaborate mechanisms used
to conceal them.
The prison gang, formed in the early 1990s, first entered the drug
trade by coordinating trafficking inside Brazil’s jails. By 2012, the
group’s drug trafficking profits had ballooned to $32 million a year. The PCC has since expanded its operations across the continent.
Ledgers seized in 2018 revealed
that the PCC had developed large-scale money laundering strategies,
including through currency exchange businesses and gas stations
purchased with illicit funds. The recent bust shows that the group is
also laundering millions through mechanisms that are more subtle and
harder to trace.
The scheme builds on the PCC’s history of exploiting imprisoned
members and their female relatives. The group charges “union dues” from
members in jail, and in 2015 was found to be bribing women to deliver information and communications devices to detainees.
These patterns of exploitation are becoming increasingly common
across the continent. In Guatemala, for instance, gangs have been found
to be using the bank accounts of their wives and girlfriends to launder the profits from extortion.